Hard to believe that the House is once again being asked to consider requiring that health plans provide coverage for a minimum hospital stay for mastectomies, lumpectomies, and lymph node dissection for the treatment of breast cancer … but it is.
For a little background,
when a breast cancer diagnosis sent me to the hospital for a double mastectomy, my surgeon told me I’d need to stay the night. So when I saw the word outpatient on my plastic hospital ID bracelet, I was confused. “Oh, we have to do that for insurance purposes,” said the woman at the check-in desk. “Your insurance company requires that we get you out in less than 24 hours.” And get me out they did; 23 hours later, I was discharged. My stay was such a whirlwind that the sole bouquet of flowers sent to me at the hospital was delivered to my lap on my way out the door.
Within two weeks, I was checking back in for follow-up surgery (the surgeon had missed some of the tumor in my chest). And this time the stay was even shorter: A mere five hours after being wheeled into the operating room, I was out the door. That night the pain was excruciating—far worse than the first time around. How could this be? I wondered, and then it hit me: no professional nurses or morphine on tap.
I’ve since learned that healthcare advocates call these in-and-out hospital stays drive-through mastectomies. I’ve also learned—much to my relief—that their days may be numbered.
That hope that “their days may be numbered” because it has been over a decade that 33 Republicans and 191 Democrats sponsored H.R.758 – Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act of 2008. The Democrat-controlled House passed it with only two Republicans voting no … but stalled in the Senate under pressure from the health insurance lobby.
Yep, 33 Republicans sponsored that bill … including current Members : Rodney Frelinghuysen [R-NJ-11], Darrell Issa [R-CA-49], Walter Jones Jr. [R-NC-3], Frank LoBiondo [R-NJ-2], Peter Roskam [R-IL-6], Ileana Ros-Lehtinen [R-FL-18], Fred Upton [R-MI-6], and Robert Wittman [R-VA-1].
The subsequent session featured 37 Republicans sponsoring H.R.1691 – Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act of 2009 including current Members : Robert Aderholt [R-AL-4], Joe Barton [R-TX-6], Charlie Dent [R-PA-15], Frelinghuysen, Jones, LoBiondo, Ros-Lehtinen, Christopher Smith [R-NJ-4], Patrick Tiberi [R-OH-12], Wittman, and Don Young [R-AK-At Large].
That was followed by 9 Republicans sponsoring H.R.111 – Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act of 2011 including current Members : Aderholt, Barton [R-TX-6], Frelinghuysen, Jones, LoBiondo, Smith, and Young.
That was followed by 3 Republicans sponsoring H.R.1531 – Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act of 2013 including current Members : Frelinghuysen, LoBiondo, and Young.
Finally, when H.R.5195 – Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act of 2016 was offered last session, Don Young was the only Republican to sponsor the bill.
Now, there is another attempt … H.R.3338 has been offered … and although it has quickly picked up 34 Democrats as sponsors, there have been no Republicans.
With Republicans controlling the legislative agenda it is up to them to step up … and the bill has been assigned to Erik Paulsen’s Ways and Means Committee as well as Jason Lewis’s Education and the Workforce committee.
This should not be a partisan issue … but it is an issue for patients. At present, the power rests with the insurance companies, not the doctors … it’s time for Republicans to stand up !
If you are in Minnesota, please contact Representatives Lewis and Paulsen to encourage them to sponsor the bill and demand committee action.
If you are in one of the districts where Members previously sponsored the bill, please encourage them to sponsor HR 3338 and demand committee action.
If you are in one of the districts where the Member has not previously sponsored the bill, ask them why not ?